NASCAR president Helton admits error

April 1, 2003 at 7:36 PM
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CONCORD, N.C., April 1 (UPI) -- NASCAR President Mike Helton admitted Tuesday to an error in a call made in Sunday's Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

After a spin on the backstretch of lap 168 by Elliott Sadler, the yellow flag came out. Leader Matt Kenseth slowed to allow lapped teammates Kurt Busch and Ricky Rudd to get back on the lead lap, and as he did, Jeff Gordon blew past him to take the top spot.

NASCAR officials - apparently including Helton - returned Kenseth to the front and Gordon to second for the green flag restart. Gordon, who finished third, complained long and loud after the race, and his words did not fall on deaf ears.

"The biggest reason I'm here today is to tell you after the fact, if we had to do that call over again, we would do it different," Helton said in a teleconference Tuesday morning. "In other words, we made a mistake making the call in a scenario of something we had never seen before when someone took the lead of the race and then gave it back."

Helton believed Gordon was less interested in passing Kenseth and more interested in not allowing Busch and Rudd to pick up the lap they had lost simply through the generosity of their teammate.

"Once the 24 (Gordon) crossed the start-finish line - and before being picked up by the pace car - he fell back into line behind the 17 car (Kenseth)," Helton said. "As it unfolded, it appeared that the 24's intent was to keep lapped cars down (a lap), more than to lead the race."

Helton pointed out the need to make quick decisions when a caution comes out due to potential danger on the track. However, he said NASCAR would not reverse Sunday's decision, and the results remain official.

Helton also said NASCAR will look at other methods of scoring to make sure drivers are credited with the correct position each time the yellow flag comes out.

Kenseth placed sixth in a race Ryan Newman won by more than three seconds over Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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